BEDES will help a range of stakeholders communicate more efficiently by essentially defining the dictionary so programs, contractors, software vendors, finance companies, utilities, Public Utility Commissions, and a range of other stakeholders are finally all speaking the same language. Data can be shared and aggregated without laborious scrubbing and translation, which will help us more rapidly answer the key questions related to energy savings and financial performance that remain barriers to energy efficiency adoption.
We are pleased that the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) was highlighted as one of five key projects aligned with BEDES goals and prioritized for collaboration as the project moves forward.
The summary for the report clearly expresses some of the key data issues and potential solutions that this ambitious project will attempt to solve:
One of the primary challenges to expanding the building energy efficiency retrofit market is the lack of empirical data on the energy performance and physical and operational characteristics of commercial and residential buildings. This makes it difficult for building-level decision-makers to identify efficiency investment opportunities, project the likely savings from investments, and understand the drivers of variations in building performance. Moreover, the lack of empirical market data limits the ability of public sector actors to tailor the design and implementation of energy efficiency programs and policies to be most effective given local market conditions and trends.
Recent technology, market and policy drivers (smart meters, energy performance disclosure laws, etc.) are resulting in a rapid increase in the generation of building and energy data that has the potential to address these issues. But this data is still hard to access, aggregate, share and utilize because it is being housed in many decentralized databases, and in different formats. Stakeholders consistently reported that they spend more time on data formatting and cleaning than they do on conducting analysis. The lack of standard data formats, terms and definitions is a significant ongoing barrier to realizing the full utility of empirical information about building energy performance.
Data exchange specifications can unlock the power of data and make it easier for a range of products and services to interact. A data spec increases the clarity and consistency of individual data points, and therefore allows for more effective exchange, verification, and analysis of information. Data specs have been vital to the growth of technologies like the internet and cellular communications. For example, Universal Product Codes (bar codes) are used to identify trade items at the point of sale, and are based on a specification that is used to manage these items through supply and demand chains in multiple sectors. But building energy performance data is not currently standardized, particularly as relates to building equipment characteristics and energy conservation measures.
The Building Energy Data Exchange Specification (BEDES) could serve as a central “data dictionary” that a range of tools and platforms can either adopt or map to. A common data format will increase the interoperability among tools by mitigating the ambiguity and transaction costs associated with sharing and aggregating data. Moreover, this will enable data from multiple sources to be combined into richer datasets that can be used to conduct more advanced analysis.
The potential benefits from utilizing a common data format are staggering for the industry. It will lower the cost and increase the availability of products and services that utilize energy data. As a result, these products and services will achieve greater market penetration and deliver better information to decision-makers. This could increase investments in energy efficiency and lead to a greater recognition of energy efficiency’s contribution.
The BEDES beta and the scoping report are available at http://buildings.energy.gov/bedes.